Beyond the specific <channel> tags within the <itunes:x> tag collection, some of the tags are optimized for assigning more information to individual episodes of your podcast. These tags are placed inside the <item> and </item> tags for each entry listed in your RSS 2.0 feed. Depending on which software app you use for publishing a podcast, these may be handled automatically or you may need to manually add them to each item. At the moment, making a modification to WordPress and Movable Type RSS 2.0 templates is the easiest way to add these tags to your feed. Hosting services like LibSyn are handling many of these configuration issues automatically, which is a massive value-add for anyone paying for their service.
The individual <itunes:x> tags making up the iTunes RSS 2.0 specification don’t add value unless implemented correctly. After verifying proper linkage to the Document Type Definition (DTD) it’s time to place the within your feed. Some of the tags are meant specifically for the <channel> section of your feed. These tags are placed somewhere after the opening <channel> reference and prior to the <item> reference within the feed.
Once you understand how all the iTunes tags fit into the big picture of your RSS feed, it’s time to implement them within your feed. Some of these tags are specific to the <channel> section of your RSS 2.0 feed and some are specific to individual <iten>. In order for any of these additions to work, you must designate a link to the Document Type Definition (DTD) for the iTunes namespace changes. In a standard RSS 2.0 feed, the namespace definition looks like this:
The iTunes Block tag is specifically designed to tell iTunes to ignore a particular post in your podcast feed. This might be particularly useful if your feed combines text only posts and posts containing audio enclosures, because the text only posts are useless in the context of iTunes RSS support. Another potential use for this tag is to exclude an episode that is intended for a select audience (say subscribers using iPodderX, for instance). The Block tag is entirely optional and should only be used in those cases where you don’t want a post to show up in the iTunes Music Store.
Duration is the iTunes tag associated with the ‘Time’ component of each episode of your podcast. This tag is implemented at the item level, displaying a time value for each episode in the format HH:MM:SS. Since people have few details about your show when they encounter it for the first time, this tag provides information that may help a listener decide whether they have time to tune in for one of your episodes. While it won’t hurt anything to leave this tag out, as Apple indicates duration is for informational purposes only, not having it listed displays a Not Available notice in the Time description in iTunes Music Store. After a subscriber downloads any episode from your podcast, the Time is based on the actual audio file header information.
The iTunes image tag is one of the few tags added by Apple with any substantial value over the base RSS 2.0 specification. The RSS image tag is limited to maximum dimensions of 144×400, which seems fairly non-standard and certainly doesn’t match the square dimensions of the album art displayed in the iTunes Music Store. Maximum dimensions for the iTunes Image tag are 300×300. It’s recommended to use the maximum. This is one tag you should definitely include to make sure your podcast is differentiated from the default image in iTunes. Supported file formats are JPG and PNG. Apple seems to have two different methods for linking their image tag. Both appear to be correct.
The iTunes Owner tag designates the name and email address of the person or persons associated with your podcast. The designation is broken into two separate tags, one for email and one for name. These are wrapped with the overall Owner designation. This is another of the many redundancies in the iTunes name space defined by Apple. In almost every case the email will be the same email used to designate <managingEditor> in RSS 2.0, which often specifies email and a name in parenthesis.
In theory the iTunes Keywords tag improves search relevance when people search by topic rather than searching for the name of your podcast. So far, I haven’t found that search functions in iTunes check for anything other than Title, Author and Description fields because the keywords I’ve injected don’t deliver any results in a search. I’m hopeful this is a temporary oversight, because using keywords certainly lends itself to making the feed more meaningful considering we don’t have mechanisms for searching inside the audio contents at the moment. Use this field to key on specific topics covered in your podcast to aid in search relevance. This tag is used for individual items in your podcast feed.
The Author tag is either the name of your podcast or your name, depending on the type of theme for your show. If you are the sole host of the podcast or the star of the show, using your name makes sense. If you have a group effort, sticking with the name of the podcast keeps all the egos satisfied, while also branding the show as being a collective effort. The author tag is used both at the RSS channel level and at the item level. At the channel level, this is an all encompassing tag for the podcast as a whole. At the item level, author could be the same as the channel level author or it may designate a specific collaborator.